In 1967, CBS and NBC charged a company $42,000 to run an advertisement during Super Bowl I. In 2004, it cost $2.3 million to purchase a 30-second slot. This year, FOX broke the record set in 2013 by selling out its entire Super Bowl advertising inventory two months before the game at an average cost of $4 million dollars per 30 seconds. Familiar companies lined up this year to purchase exclusive spots, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Pepsi, Hyundai, Chrysler and Coca-Cola.
Two economists, Stanford's Wesley Hartmann and Humboldt University Berlin's Daniel Klapper, investigated if Pepsi and Coca-Cola saw an increase in brand share by spending more money each year to advertise during the Super Bowl. Looking at Super Bowls from 2006 to 2011, Hartmann and Klapper used Nielsen ratings to determine how many people were exposed to Super Bowl advertisements and compared it with sales data collected by tracking UPC codes on six-packs of soda across America. They found that consumers were no more likely to buy Pepsi or Coca-Cola because of a Super Bowl advertisement. By studying soda purchases, they offer strategic advice for newer companies eager to introduce their company to a national audience.
People buy lots of soda, regardless of the Super Bowl
Before the game, when Pepsi and Coca-Cola tease their upcoming Super Bowl advertisements via social media and expensive advertising slots during entertainment award shows (see Pepsi's GRAMMYs "Halftime" advertisement below), there is no measurable uptick is sales of either Pepsi or Coca-Cola. This holds true for the weeks following—in fact, there is "a statistically insignificant drop in consumption" according to Hartmann and Klapper. Even looking at cities whose teams are playing in the Super Bowl and have a notable increase in viewership, there is still no measurable increase in sales. The best case scenario is a "Super Bowl Party Bump" where people purchase more beverages, beyond Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Pepsi's "GRAMMYs Halftime advertisement leading up to the Super Bowl"
Super Bowl ads may be better suited for new brands
Well established brands, such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola, are defined by the thousands of interactions they initiate with consumers on a regular basis. Newer brands advertising in 2014, such as greek yogurt manufacturers Chobani and Oikos, may stand to gain more because the Super Bowl is the only program on television that reaches over 50 percent of all Americans. Unlike companies that already saturate television with advertising, newer companies can see as much as a 15 percent increase in market exposure by airing one 30-second advertisement.
Maybe the match-up to watch in 2014 isn't between Seattle and Denver, but Chobani and Oikos? Will Uncle Jesse beat out a bear?
Oikos' Full House reunion Super Bowl advertisement
Chobani's Super Bowl advertisement
Noah Chestnut is Director of New Republic Labs.